Priority services for processing UK immigration applications submitted from overseas are currently suspended. As a result, there are significant Home Office delays in processing UK visas and entry clearances applications which are submitted from overseas. We are finding that processing times for Skilled Worker applications are around eight weeks, and visitor visas are taking six to eight weeks to process. Settlement visas (such as spouse applications) are currently taking up to six months to process.
Individuals and employers will need to factor these delays into the recruitment process and ensure that managers and the prospective employees are aware of the timelines.
It is also possible that, following the introduction of new legislation, restrictions may in the future be placed on Russian nationals applying to come to the UK. If you wish to sponsor a Russian national, we recommend that the visa application is submitted as soon as possible before any changes come into effect.
Background and increasing backlog
In mid-March 2022, UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) announced that all priority visa processing services for applications submitted from outside the UK would be temporarily suspended in order for UKVI to prioritise applications from Ukrainian nationals fleeing the war. UKVI’s focus of resources on processing applications under the Ukraine immigration schemes has resulted in a backlog of other visa applications and significant delays in processing times.
At the end of April 2022, UKVI made an announcement to all sponsors through the Sponsor Management System that they were experiencing an unusually high volume of applications which they were working through in date order and that decisions may unavoidably take longer than usually expected. UKVI also advised sponsors not to chase up applications unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Visa processing times on the standard service should usually mean a decision is made with three weeks after an applicant has attended their biometrics appointment at the visa application centre. In practice we are seeing that many applications are currently taking around eight weeks to be decided.
UKVI has also updated its guidance on the processing time for applications from outside the UK under the family and settlement routes, such as spouse visa applications. Applicants should currently expect to receive a decision within 24 weeks after attending their biometrics appointment, instead of 12 weeks.
Applications by Russian citizens
Russian nationals are still able to submit UK visa applications from outside the UK. However, on 28 April 2022 changes to the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 came into force. Newly introduced provisions allow the Home Office to make changes to the Immigration Rules and to impose visa penalties on any country the Home Secretary specifies as having taken action that:
- Gives, or is likely to give, rise to a threat to international peace and security
- Results, or is likely to result, in armed conflict or
- Gives, or is likely to give, rise to a breach of international humanitarian law
The visa penalties that may be imposed under the Immigration Rules are:
- Requiring visa applications submitted from outside the UK not to be granted to nationals of a specified country
- Suspending the Home Office's power to grant visa applications from outside the UK in respect of such an application
- Requiring such an application to be treated as invalid and/or
- Requiring such an applicant to pay an additional fee of £190 (or other amount if approved under regulations)
The Home Secretary must give the relevant country reasonable notice of the intention to impose visa penalties and such penalties cannot be applied to any application that was submitted before the changes come into force. We anticipate that employers and individuals will be given very little prior notice of any changes.
Given the current delays, employers who want to sponsor individuals should start the process as soon as possible and individuals should submit their immigration application promptly. Additional time will need to be factored into the recruitment process and it is likely that start dates for UK jobs will be delayed. We also recommend that applicants do not make any firm travel plans until they have received their UK visas and applicants will also need to bear in mind the impact of delays before taking decisions such as resigning from current jobs or handing in notice in relation to rented properties.
Although Russian nationals are still able to submit UK visa applications from outside the UK, in practice there appear to be greater delays in processing applications for Russian nationals compared to other nationalities. This may be related to additional security checks being carried out.
In addition, the new legislation that has come into force has led to rumours that it may be used by the Home Office to prohibit or at least restrict Russian nationals from applying to come to the UK. As these changes could be brought in at very short notice, we recommend that employers who want to sponsor Russian nationals start the process as soon as possible.